Our inability to re-humanise our workplaces stems from three detrimental behavioural traps. How can we release ourselves from these harmful habits and get back in touch with our humanity?
Are you pushing or flowing? We’ve become so numb, so disconnected from who we really are, we’ve lost sight of our own innate source of inspiration and we’re running around busily trying to make others’ inspiration fit us.
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I was with a Board team last week who were talking about change. How it takes courage and can be hard because we’re having to lose something of us to adopt something new or move to something different.
This is true but only when we attach to our personal thoughts
When we attach to our personal thoughts it’s like putting square wheels on a racing car. We clunk along. Sometimes stopping all together, unable to move forward. Certainly not able to quickly change direction when needed. But we believe in these wheels, we created them. Even if “horrible” or “negative” there’s a familiarity about them that brings comfort. We know where we are. We’ve adapted ourselves to drive with these wheels, forgetting how things used to be before we had them.
Then we start to consider maybe this isn’t ideal. Maybe I would benefit from a smoother ride. Normally we start working hard to change the wheels. Intellectually analysing how they were fitted, what they are made of. But some of the bolts seem stuck. Or maybe there’s a square wheel we subconsciously like the look of so we find a justifiable reason not to change it.
Now we’re driving with 2 square and 2 round wheels. Better but not exactly a smooth ride. Then you meet someone who glides on round wheels. You’re fascinated & slightly freaked out by their difference. It reminds you of glimmers in your life when you’ve glided, when smooth wheels suddenly appeared and for that short while you enjoyed it! Thinking it must have been what you were doing at the time that created that feeling, you repeat the activity, repeating the external conditions to create the smooth-ride magic as often as you can.
Maybe you didn’t realise that you brushed off the truth of what was going on because it seemed so simple and we all know simple doesn’t win kudos prizes.
The truth is that round wheels are our natural state. Round wheels are what we are born with. We just acquired the square as we grew up & blindly followed the square-creating rules of the world. Once we really see the truth of how the square are created, moment-to-moment, and what they really mean, then our attachment to them drops away with a natural ease and we slip into the round. The natural place we fall back to. Our innate state of clarity, wisdom and wellbeing. From here we glide round the corners, speed along the straights and rediscover a life of richness and fulfilment. All the while connected to our innate brilliance.
If you’re curious to learn more, this is what we’re going to be exploring through LearnConnctDo this year. The thread that’s going to weave through all the sessions.
We’re starting on 14th March* with an introduction to the psychological understanding that underpins this smooth-wheel place. The Eventbrite will be up very soon on this page – if you don’t want to miss it jump on the mailing list by getting in touch with me here. As last year, all ticket profits will be going to Twenty:Twenty as we continue our partnership with this wonderful charity. Thank you to PKF for continuing to host us so we can maximise how much we donate.
*3-6pm at PKF Cooper Parry’s East Mids offices (near East Mids Airport).
As my daughter drew it, copying from the video, she burst into tears. The tail looked all wrong, far too wide for the body. “But mummy look, the tail needs to go to under its first toe”.
Trouble is, of course, my daughter’s parrot’s toes were slightly different to the one in the video so the tail going to there did make it look a bit crazy-wide.
When we try to copy a pre-prepared plan to the letter, when we expect people to behave in a certain way that matches the movie in our heads, when we think it shouldn’t be raining today because we’ve got that outdoor event, when we think we should be earning more / achieving more….
This is where our suffering begins: when we believe every single thing we think and see it as a solid, definite truth.
Once you really see how our minds work, the more you live in the moment working with what is, instead of what you think it “should” be. The more you’re here, the more you stay fluid and flexible, adaptive and agile, adjusting and integrating, and the better you feel.
All this without having to actively “do” anything. No mind-management techniques, no practicing of new habits. Once you “get” this understanding, the flow just flows.
It’s hard work swimming upstream against the current of the world around us.
Jump in and be in the flow.
Get in touch if you want to know more.
This has been a new realisation for me thanks to learning about the Three Principles with Piers Thurston and this particular realisation has helped to settle a paradox that I used to just accept I had to hold both ends of.
That paradox was that I would hear people say “you’re good enough just as you are” but then I would hear and see others doing or saying things – maybe about their own work or feeding back to me – which would suggest I “should” be doing or behaving in a different way. So…I’m good enough as I am…..except when others (or me to myself) lay down a judgement and then I’m not good enough, I’m imperfect in some way and I “should” change and do something different.
Now…..the paradox has dissolved.
One is that I had a deep whole-body realisation that I’m actually, deeply, fundamentally OK. I am already a whole person. Good enough just as I am. I truly “see” that. I don’t just hear the words at an intellectual level.
Two is that I see that everything I have ever experienced has been from the inside out. So all those times when I’ve thought I “should” be doing something because of what someone else is telling me or what I’m enviously seeing others do, have been created by me. Self-imposed “should’s”.
And the result. The paradox is gone. I am deeply, fundamentally, good enough as I am and I know I have an innate capacity to be creative and resourceful which means I will keep moving forward, learning, improving and creating with the goal of making a positive difference. But not because I “should”, instead because it feels like the most natural and obvious thing to do.
[Photo credit : https://unsplash.com/@rohanmakhecha]
My summary view : a fantastic, practical and accessible handbook to shift attitudes to how we work with those we employ and therefore how we can make work more engaging.
The book’s based on Debra and Glenn’s Engagement Bridge model and so it’s structured around the ten elements of that model. These elements are essentially the elements you’d see in any decent people strategy but with the nice Bridge metaphor – the foundational rocks for the bridge are Workspace, Wellbeing and Pay & Benefits. Above that, the more “planks of wood” you lay, the stronger your bridge and the more people you can safely get across the river.
The ten elements provide the chapters for the book – but in a flexible way. There isn’t a prescriptive “work on this, then this, then this”. They invite readers to jump in where it feels right for them. So you could read the whole book and then decide your priorities, but equally, if you know where your opportunities are you could go straight to those sections. I also like that at the end there’s an acknowledgement that there can be huge overlap and interconnection between these ten elements. So many books try to keep the boxes of a model (falsely) separate so I like the honesty about the fact these elements are operating as a whole system.
Each chapter begins with insights or knowledge-sharing about the topic, then how Rebels do these things differently – the outcomes they’re striving for and the behaviours they deploy, before sharing case studies or “plays” from a huge variety of organisations – varied both in terms of type and size of business but all consistent in being led by people who have a passion and the courage to do things differently to make work better.
In terms of the Plays, I don’t believe for a second that all these organisations have engagement perfectly nailed in every way, but the examples of what they’ve done give great ideas to get thoughts stimulated and minds broadened to possibilities. Again Debra and Glenn are honest about this work of improving engagement being an ongoing journey. There is no quick fix, no silver bullet. It takes commitment for the long term and continued effort to keep practices fresh and still engaging. And also (yay!!) they discredit the idea of best practice – read the examples, consider them in your context, and do what’s right for your organisation, your values and your uniqueness.
I found some chapters more interesting, sparky and hope-inducing than others – even though some of principles and Plays are ones I’m aware of. The one I found least engaging was the Learning & Development one, but maybe that’s because it’s the area I know best. The Plays in it just seemed to be things we were doing in Boots a number of years back and not especially innovative. Or does it mean that L&D are ahead of the curve in doing things differently? That would make a nice change to the usual narrative around L&D holding things back!
Counter to that, HR and Legal teams get the raw deal in here. Held responsible for the dreadful employee handbooks, rules and policies which punish the many for the misdemeanours of the few. However, that approach has grown up from the management practices of the 19th Century and the belief of the need to control the lazy workforce so I don’t think HR and Legal can be held solely accountable here. A key message is about starting from a place of trust and believing that people are at work to do a good job – and that if you treat people that way that’s likely what you’ll get. And if you don’t, you deal with that on an individual basis, treating it as the exception to the rule that it really is rather than writing a while new policy paragraph. @HRGem would be proud!
Of course with one book and ten topics to cover, these are relatively topline insights into each, but definitely giving enough information and ideas of “what” you can do. There’s a gap in terms of the “how to” but maybe that will be for future books – or at the very least for you to research more and/or seek support from relevant experts.
One thing I struggled with, and am still grappling with now, is one part of the definition of engagement where Debra and Glenn say that engaged employees “genuinely want the organisation to succeed” which means “They will often put the organisation’s needs ahead of their own.”. I just don’t agree with this. I believe we have enough people who attach their self-worth to how well they do in a job (which can lead to burnout and mental illness) and I don’t think a human and responsible employer should use how much people put the org before themselves as a measure of success – further increasing the pressure to be “good enough” by going the extra mile. In fact that to me this is counter-intuitive to the arguments later in the book about wellbeing. If we’re truly going to help people be well we need to be OK with employees putting their own, their friends and their families needs ahead of the org. Not only that, if we believe that putting the org first is a measure of good engagement then you automatically exclude a large and diverse proportion of the workforce from being on the “engaged” list because they may just not physically be able to make that kind of commitment – whether due to caring responsibilities, for their own health or because of a disability which limits how much they can work.
Overall I think this book is fantastic, easy to read and containing loads of top tips and ideas. I’ve already recommended it to a number of my clients to help them and their leadership teams with their own cultural shifts.
Strangely I’m going to finish on a worry I have. Not one that I think Debra and Glenn should have covered, nor are responsible for but…..
I have a more fundamental grapple about engagement and the purpose of the org towards which people are being engaged. If these practices are intended to improve productivity towards a positive purpose then that’s all good. But I fear that too many orgs continue to operate with profit as the primary pursuit, and engage in work which damages the local community / the environment / people further down the supply chain. I appreciate this isn’t the concern of this book but it is something that concerns me about the world of work; that orgs will do the engagement thing like they might do the CSR thing – make themselves look good on the surface to hide the unspeakables that are under the rug. My hope is that nobody can be that good at hiding….
And in the meantime I’m going to be focusing on the ones who have a positive purpose to do good in the world and who really mean it!
It’s a fantastic learning event – whether you go to the Conference sessions, spend your time on the Exhibition floor and in the taster sessions, or talking to fellow delegates – there’s something for everyone!
This year, there’s a theme about embedding learning into everyday activities: Make every day a learning day! And this post is an invitation to you.
As part of the blog squad I’m running a blog carnival – an opportunity for anybody to blog around the theme of how we make every day a learning day which I’ll curate at the beginning of May. The point of this is to get everyone’s thinking juices flowing, to get people thinking and working out loud, and help you shape your purpose for going to the event or following #cipdldshow.
When you go to a conference or exhibition, it’s easy to go, fill your head with a bunch of stuff, fill your bag with a bunch of swag, and leave wondering what you went there for in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, there is much to be gained from the world of serendipity, where you allow things to appear and where you follow your nose in the direction your energy takes you. However there is also much to be gained from having a purpose. Having a reason for going. The ideal is to get a balance between both of these two. Be clear on your purpose and let yourself be led by your energy.
So, this blog carnival is to help you shape what that purpose is for you. Whether you go to the exhibition, the conference or just follow the backchannel (#cipdldshow) having a purpose will help guide your attention to the areas of greatest benefit to you.
So, what do you need to do?
🙂 Write a blog post by the end of April:
Either – Publish it on your own blog site and tell me it’s there – tag me into a tweet or LinkedIn post
Or – put your post in a word doc and email it to me, then I’ll host you on my blog page
🙂 Get sharing:
Share what you’re reading from others so more people can access all the thinking that’s going on
cut the costs or make the sales.
New systems and tech are set to help
“Reduce the work and boost results”
And of course some people have to go
Middle management, on the whole
Leaving gaping gaps in the work that was
Some that moves up but mostly down.
And all the while the tension pulls:
“Do the big picture
But fill in these forms.”
“Don’t tell us your woes
We want shiny stuff.”
“Jazz hands! Fabulous!”
That keeps our jobs.
But the promised systems don’t quite fulfil
Putting stresses and strains on those it’s for
And the gaping gaps in the work that was,
Causing levels of busy not seen before,
Prevent human connection that would nourish the soul.
In the absence of this
People fall and fall
And so do the sales, and the costs stay still
Because the energy’s gone
We’ve lost the will.
Between us, Jon and I blogged the day, with Jon picking up the mantle for the 3 sessions we both went to (I tweeted those 3 if you want to check out the # too). So here’s what we captured in one place:
Brexit Breakfast – Richard Barker and Abisola Latunji, Mills and Reeve
I’d been curious what was going to be shared here, given nothing’s yet changed, so it was heartening to hear that nothing has and also it was interesting to listen to the kind of areas where there could be some changes. All speculation so far but delegates seemed to get a lot from having their thoughts stirred about the kind of impact.
Opening Keynote – Tim Jones, Network Rail and Peter Cheese, CEO CIPD
Andrew and I have kept in touch on Twitter since we met about a year ago, and it was after a recent phone call that I asked if he’d write a post for my blog. During that call he talked about how, for many years, he was a task-focussed, ‘traditional’ manager – managing resources (both human and otherwise) rather than engaging hearts and minds. Now, since the leadership programme, he’s seen another way. As a leader of contracted teams – rather than direct reports – it could be argued that he has a much more challenging leadership context. And yet his teams have flourished under his new-found people-focused leadership.
Here’s Andrew’s story about the power of choosing to make a change…..
What if business leaders didn’t stay in soulless, global chain, hotels?
We all do it. Check-in, find your room, walk in and, yep, everything is pretty much where I expect it to be. No matter where in the world or what chain of hotels, yep, it’s all where I usually find it. And guess what. We go for food, and see similar people to us, talking about how business is so tough, talking about last night’s football match, how they wished they had gone to bed earlier etc etc. All very familiar.
We get what we always get.
It’s comforting in a way.
Recently I opted out of this ‘routine’ and stayed in a yurt. It got cold at nights. The food was prepared in the wood burner in the yurt. I spoke to the entrepreneur who has created this fabulous business as part of her portfolio of Green Economy businesses – she was full of optimism and hadn’t stayed up late watching a game.
As I set off for my meeting on the first morning, I looked back, saw the view captured above and grinned. I don’t ever recall walking away from a hotel and grinning…. My day started with a feeling of happy confidence…. As I headed off to corporate hotel meeting venue…
So, what if we don’t hold meetings in soulless office meeting rooms.? We don’t all have the pleasure of working in environments such as google or apple… Well, actually we do. In fact, we have better. It’s called ‘outdoors’.
I am fortunate that I work for a great company that allows me the freedom to Lead as I choose. They give me the tools, support and coaching (that’s my link to Wild Fig Solutions) to get on and Lead to the best of my ability.
So I took my team out for a walk in the woods. Literally. This is a team of Contract Managers. Not usually seen as a ‘soft and genteel’ bunch. So it’s fair to say they were probably curious at best and cynical at worst as we set off.
But here’s the thing. Out of the standard soulless office environment, we had laughter. We had ideas. We had a new energy to face the rest of the day. We had Contract Managers that said ‘we must do this more often’.
I work for a progressive, forward thinking company. Since we worked with Helen at Wild Fig Solutions and Lane4, I see more and more meetings being held in the great outdoors by others around our business.
Our CEO declared our business performance last year as ‘Stellar’. ‘Nuff said.